he food was running out, the line at the bar was three deep, and state Del. Leo Green of Bowie was looking for Billy Carter.

"Everyone I talked to wants to meet Billy. Jimmy's fine, but Billy's the one everyone I know identifies with," Green said, hoisting a tall glass of beer in the air.

"Someone just saw a bunch of people walk by in red shirts and said, "There goes Billy Carter and his redneck brigade," Green said. "If he shows up, the party will be a great success."

Billy Carter didn't make it to the Maryland inaugural party at the National Visitors Center last night. Neither did his brother, Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer from Plains, Ga. Nor did Walter Mondale or any of the other heavies in the Carter administration. But about 5,200 other people did, including most of the movers and shakers in the Maryland Democratic Party and the foot soldiers in Carter's effort in the state. They hardly noticed that the only member of the official Carter family to show up was "Aunt Cissy," the younger sister of [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]

It was the first big party in a week celebrate the return to power of the Democratic Party as much as the election of Jimmy Carter. It was a raucous, hastily put-together affair with 21 bands and instrumental groups, a train - christened the "Peanut Express" - and a wide cross section of could attend for $10.

"You know Democrats," Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III declared wryly. "We'll have a party for any reason, or no reason. But tonight we have a big reason: "It's Jimmy Carter, and the fact that have a Democratic administration back in Washington."

The party in the vavernous National Visitor Center at Union Station offered something for almost everyone. Attire ranged from ragged jeans to sequined tuxedos and gowns. The entertainment included everything from the brassy marching sounds os the U.S. Naval Academy ban to bluegrass to the Lindyettes, featuring 8-year-old Missy Urbeny singing to the accompaniment of a six-accordion and one-drum band.

The great irony of the gathering was that it may have come as close to representing a the "people's inaugural" party as any event of the week, but the crowd was treated so shabbily that it was told to start evacuating the hall at 8 p.m. so another, smaller party, could take its place. The hard liquor and food had run out 30 minutes before.

Although he eventually carried the state, Jimmy Carter was never particularly popular in Maryland.The voters and most of the state's political bosses turned away from him in the Democratic primary last May and supported California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. instead.

Thus, hindsight was the political perspective in vogue last night. "Remember, I was with him all the way," Baltimore City Councilman Clarence (Du) Burns, a Brown supporter in the primary, announced to a round of guffaws. "I was with him all the way . . . after he took Maryland in the primary."

Many of the celebrants had come to the Union Station party on a specially charted train.

It was 4:15 p.m., half an hour late, when the 12 cars of the Peanut Express pulled up to Elkton's boardedup brick station - the first passenger train to stop at the small northeastern Maryland station in about a decade.

Shivering on the platform were 48 Jimmy Carter loyalists, green-and-white buttons on their lapels, supplies of scotch and paper cups in some pockets and handbags, the vanguard of 846 Democrats waiting along the way to Washington to ride this year's first special inaugural train.

"I did it, I did it, my first train ride," said 9-year-old Arvi Wrang II, his blond head bobbing up and down in unison with his clenched fists.

Across the aisle, Jean Baker looked out at the frozen Gunpowder River and sigjhed with relief. "We didn't know until the last minute that we'd get the train to stop in Elkton. It was just going to be Baltimore and the Capital Beltway," said Mrs. Baker, a member of the state's Democratic Central Committee.

"This whole thing became a reality just a week ago Saturday," Jeffrey Gallagher explained a little later, after 700 eager partygoers clambered aboard in Baltimore, chattering about the cold and the future.

The arrangements included five different stops for the newly doubled Peanut Express - in Elkton, Perryville and Aberdeen before the train rumbled down to Baltimore and the Beltway, where fancy tuxedos joined the tweed jackets and furs of the upstate failthful. The total cost of the "arrangements" was $11,000.

"This is the fun part, after all the hard work," said Jean Baker's husband, Walter Richard (Tucker) Macband, Walter, state del. Richard (Tucker) Mackie, from Cecil County, wandered by the Bakers, talking their $7 payments, counting heads filling the first car and smiling benignly. Mackie is a farmer in the nonlegislative season.

"Did you know CecilCounty went for him (Carter) in the primary and the general (elections)? How many counties in Maryland did that? Don't let all those people who get on in Baltimore tell you they're Carter people," Mackie said.

"We just thought that this would be fun," said Joanne Olszewski, a Joppa resident, sitting a car behind Hines and his Elkton compatriots. "For so many years we haven't felt a part of what's happening," she added.

When they arrived at Union Station, they found the party well in progress. Above the din of electric guitars, a man from Baltimore screamed over a pay phone to his wife: "It's just like the convention that you see on TV."

Gov. Martin Mandel shook hands. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) signed autographs.

Abruptly at 8 p.m. the party ended, or at least the sponsors of the event tried to end it, with an unseen voice urging celebrants to "move with deliberate speech."

Then most of the partygoers drifted out into the train station, many of them escaping the grasping hands of the security force that tried, for the most part unsuccessfully, to keep them from stealing the potted flowers that had been decorating the station. And as they wandered through the revolving doors to the frigid outside a new cast of characters came through the revolving doors inside for the next event, a folk festival, and the young drum and bugle players were replaced by, in one instance, an oriental man in a silken gown and sandals.

Contributing to this story was Washington Post staff writer Donald P. Baker .